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What is more basic or versatile than the onion? I find that all my best dishes begin with sautéing a large chopped or sliced specimen. One of the classic ways to cook onions is to caramelize them, and mastering this skill will make you a kitchen rock star!

How to Caramelize Onions

by Elise Bauer for Simply Recipes


  • 5 large onions, yellow, white, or red
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • Salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar (optional)
  • Balsamic vinegar (optional)


  1. Slice the onions.
  2. Use a wide, thick-bottomed sauté pan for maximum pan contact with the onions. Coat the bottom of the pan with olive oil and butter. Heat on medium high heat until the oil is shimmering. Add onion slices and stir to coat. Spread onions evenly and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the onions from burning.
  3. After about 10 minutes, sprinkle salt over the onions. Add sugar at this time if desired, to help with caramelization. To keep the onions from drying out as they cook, add a little water if necessary.
  4. Cook for 30-60 minutes, stirring frequently. Let the onions stick a little and brown, but stir them before they burn. After the first 20 to 30 minutes you may need to lower the heat a little, and add more oil, if you find the onions are browning too much. As the onions cook down, you may find you need to scrape the pan every minute, instead of every few minutes.
  5. Continue to cook and scrape, until the onions are a rich, brown color. At the end of the cooking process you might want to add a little balsamic vinegar or wine to help deglaze the pan and add additional flavor.

You can use onions prepared this way on top of steak, for onion soup, tarts, pizza, or in onion dip. If not using immediately, store refrigerated for several days in an air-tight container. To see the full original recipe with photos and video, click here.